February 02, 2021
By Lynn Burkhead
On Monday, in an effort to kickstart Bass Pro Shops' 50th anniversary celebration this year, a brand new fishing tournament concept was announced in a livestream event.
And make no mistake about it, the new U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships series is big. Johnny Morris big, to be exact.
That's because the founder of the Bass Pro Shops retail empire is creating a unique, amateur-driven event with a total cash and prize purse of $4.3 million, including a staggering $1 million winner's check for the winning two-person team in the three-day championship event on Missouri's Table Rock Lake Nov. 19-21.
That $1 million will be one of the largest single-event winner's check in the long and storied history of American fishing, comparable to the winner of a Bassmaster Classic, a Bass Pro Tour REDCREST event, or a FLW Tour championship derby—all of those fished by the nation's top pros.
What's more, Morris and event organizers promise a big boost for fisheries conservation across America, with at least $1 million earmarked from the proceeds for improving fish habitat. Conservation will get another boost since one lucky junior angler (ages 11-18) will receive a $250,000 scholarship for study in a conservation-related field of education.
Finally, at the NBC televised three-day championship event near Big Cedar Lodge and Bass Pro Shops' Springfield, Mo., flagship store, the angler who catches the biggest bass will received a 21-foot fiberglass Ranger, Nitro, or Triton bass boat, along with a Toyota Tundra truck and other great prizes.
A first of its kind, the new U.S. Open amateur team championship event, and the qualifying feeder derbies leading up to it, will invite owners of Tracker, Ranger, Nitro, Triton, Sun Tracker, Tahoe and MAKO brand boats to compete against each other. They'll do so in an event geared toward weekend tournament enthusiasts, everyday amateurs and families who enjoy fishing together.
Johnny Morris said on Monday that the event, with the championship derby on the eve of Bass Pro Shops' 50th anniversary, brings the celebration back to the Ozark Mountain roots where Morris founded the world's best-known outdoors retailing brand in the back of his dad's Brown Derby liquor store in 1972.
An avid tournament angler himself as he grew up fishing Table Rock Lake and other surrounding waters, Morris grew to appreciate the impact of tournament fishing on America's angling resources. Now, he wants to honor his company's golden anniversary, America's storied tournament angling pastime, and the country's legion of amateurs who dream of holding up a gleaming victory trophy atop a weigh-in platform.
"Fishing in the first national B.A.S.S. tournament on Table Rock Lake in 1970 rewarded me with friends for life and served as my inspiration to start Bass Pro Shops," said Morris in a press release.
"Fishing on the B.A.S.S. Tournament Circuit also helped keep us abreast of the latest emerging trends in fishing and enabled me to stay closely connected to our customers," he continued. "And without our loyal customers and industry-leading independent boat dealers, we simply wouldn't be here today.
"This tournament is our way of giving thanks and rewarding our customers with the chance to land the catch of a lifetime. Beyond offering the ultimate prize in fishing, we're excited to celebrate our heritage, raise funds for conservation, and have some big fun with people who love fishing as much as we do."
How can you be a part of it? The first step is to enter one of the eight regional qualifier events around the country.
- Lake Okeechobee, Fla., March 13, 2021
- Lake Ray Roberts, Texas, April 17
- Lake Mead, Nev., April 24
- Chesapeake Bay, Md., July 17
- Lake St. Clair, Mich., Aug. 21
- Old Hickory Lake, Tenn., Sept. 11
- Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, Okla., Oct. 16
- Bull Shoals Lake, Ark, Nov. 17 (Last Chance Qualifier)
- Grand Championship finale: Table Rock Lake, Mo., Nov. 19
Each qualifying event, in addition to activities for participants and families at each stop, will also feature celebrity weigh masters, including Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Roland Martin, Kevin VanDam, Ott DeFoe, Timmy Horton, and country music's Chris Johnson.
After those regional qualifying events have taken place, tournament organizers say that a last-chance qualifier is scheduled on Arkansas' Bull Shoals Lake on Nov. 17.
Officials with the U.S. Open event also say that in an effort to spur the future of tournament fishing, the winners of the three top college fishing tournament trails across the country will receive their own invitations to the championship event, along with special prizes and recognition earmarked for them.
Everyone will then gather before Thanksgiving for the final three-day U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championship event, which will start on Nov. 19 and continue through Sunday, Nov. 21 at Table Rock Lake. Looking on will be NBC sports cameras for a live broadcast presented on Nov. 21 and a special feature recap show airing by year's end.
Because of the anticipated participation level, organizers say that a total of 4,700 anglers will be allowed over the course of the tournament series, with each regional qualifying event open to up to 250 two-person teams. Entry fees are $450 per person, $250 for youth ages 12-17, and free for kids under the age of 12. Each participant will receive a U.S. Open Gift Bag valued at $150.
Organizers say that a portion of the entry fees will be aimed at driving efforts by the National Fish Habitat Initiative in future conservation work. In fact, a full one third of the entry fees will be contributed to the initiative with BPS and Toyota matching the donation, creating an amount equal to 100 percent of the entry fees—more than $1 million dollars, according to organizers—going to the work benefitting fisheries conservation around America.
Finally, event organizers say that interested parties should keep in mind that the first registration window opens online soon for the first three regional qualifiers. That registration window, which opens for 24 hours beginning at 10 a.m. CT, takes place next week on Feb. 10, 2021. To learn more about the U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championship, its rules, information updates, and full details, click here.